Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Reflection on St. Joan of Arc

Our Holy Father reflects upon the mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc.
Today I would like to speak to you about Joan of Arc, a young saint from the end of the Middle Ages, who died at age 19, in 1431....We could place her next to the holy women who stayed on Calvary, close to Jesus crucified, and Mary, his mother, while the apostles fled and Peter himself denied him three times.

In her times, the Church lived the profound crisis of the great Western schism, which lasted almost 40 years. When Catherine of Siena died, in 1380, there was a pope and an anti-pope. When Joan was born, in 1412, there was a pope and two anti-popes. In addition to this laceration within the Church, there were continuous fratricidal wars between the Christian peoples of Europe, the most tragic of which was the interminable 100 Years War between France and England.

Joan of Arc could not read or write, but she can be known in the depth of her soul thanks to two sources of exceptional historical value: the two trials she underwent. The first, the "Trial of Conviction," contains the transcription of the long and numerous interrogations of Joan during the last months of her life (February-May of 1431), and includes the words of the saint herself. The second, the "Trial of Nullity of the Sentence," or of "rehabilitation," contains the testimonies of close to 120 eye-witnesses from all the periods of her life (cf. Procès de Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 3 vol. and Procès en Nullité de la Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 5 vol., ed. Klincksieck, Paris l960-1989)....

Joan's passion began on May 23, 1430, when she fell prisoner in the hands of her enemies. On Dec. 23 she was taken to the city of Rouen. Carried out there was the long and dramatic Trial of Conviction, which began in February of 1431 and ended on May 30 with the stake. It was a grand and solemn trial, presided over by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in reality led entirely by a large group of theologians of the famous University of Paris, who took part in the trial as consultants. They were French ecclesiastics who had political leanings opposed to Joan's, and who thus had a priori a negative judgment on her person and her mission. This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is "at the same time holy and always in need of being purified" ("Lumen Gentium," 8). It was the dramatic meeting between this saint and her judges, who were ecclesiastics. Joan was accused and judged by them, to the point of being condemned as a heretic and sent to the terrible death of the stake. As opposed to the holy theologians who had illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, of whom I have spoken in other catecheses, these judges were theologians lacking in charity and humility to see in this young woman the action of God. Jesus' words come to mind according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those that have the heart of little ones, while they remain hidden from the learned and wise who are not humble (cf. Luke 10:21). Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul: They did not know they were condemning a saint.

Joan's appeal to the pope's intervention on May 24 was rejected by the court. On the morning of May 30 she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market. She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession. Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435). Almost 25 years later, the Trial of Nullity, opened under the authority of Pope Calixtus III, concluded with a solemn sentence that declared the condemnation null and void (July 7, 1456; PNul, II, p. 604-610). This long trial, which includes the statements of witnesses and judgments of many theologians, all favorable to Joan, highlights her innocence and her perfect fidelity to the Church. Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920 by Benedict XV. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Anniversary

The 350th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mary of of the Angels is being celebrated.
MONCALIERI-ITALY (07-01-2011).- The Archbishop of Turin, Mgr. Cesare Nosiglia, presided at the solemn Eucharistic celebration in Moncalieri Carmel. This celebration will mark the commencement of the celebrations for the 350th anniversary of the birth of the Blessed Discalced Carmelite nun, Mary of the Angels.

To recall the birth of the foundress of Saint Joseph of Mocalieri Carmel the community of Discalced Carmelite nuns and an organizing Committee have suggested a yearlong celebration, a ‘Jubilee Year,’ beginning on 8th January and concluding on 16th December, with the liturgical feast of the Blessed.

This year of prayer, of historical research and spirituality associated with our Carmelite charism will reach out beyond the confines of the Carmel to the local Moncalieri community. Together they will celebrate the first Carmelite in Italy to be made a Blessed, which occurred in 1865 by Pope Pius IX.

As well as the Carmel, the Turin diocese will also recall throughout the year the paper that Blessed Mary of the Angels developed in the society of Victor Amadeo II, also the particular influence she had in the society from that time and the devotion to her since her death.

From among all the Saints associated with the Turin Diocese, Blessed Mary of the Angels is the only one from Turin. St. John Bosco was responsible for writing her biography on the occasion of her beatification.

Moreover, a Committee of Honour has been formed whose President is the Cardinal Secretary of State, Monsignor Tarcisio Bertone. It comprises of several people who have been devoted to Carmel. Cardinal Bertone, who was especially invited, will close the Jubilee Year.

Blessed Mary of the Angels

Blessed Mary of the Angels (Marianna Fontanella) was born on 7th January 1661 in Turin. On 19th November 1676 she entered the Discalced Carmelite convent of St. Christine of Turin where she took the name Mary of the Angels.

She exercised the role of mistress of novices and prioress in the convent on several occasions. She was greatly devoted to St. Joseph, as a consequence, in 1696 the Turin diocese instituted the feast of her patron. In the year 1703 she founded the convent of Moncalieri. On 16th December 1717 after a brief illness she died in the convent of St. Christine in Turin.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Christian Marriage is a Privilege, Not a Right

Our Holy Father's recent words to the Roman Rota are worth pondering.
In the sphere of nullity created by the exclusion of the essential goods of marriage (cf. ibid. can. 1101, No. 2) a serious commitment is necessary, moreover, so that the judicial rulings reflect the truth about marriage, the same truth that must illuminate admission to marriage. I am thinking, in a special way, of the exclusion of the "bonum coniugum." In relation to the this exclusion the same danger that threatens the correct application of the norms dealing with incapacity seems to repeat itself, and, that is, looking for the causes of nullity in the behaviors that do not regard the constitution of the bond but rather its realization in life. We must resist the temptation to transform the simple failures of the spouses in the conjugal life into defects of consent. True exclusion can only manifest itself when the ordination to the good of the spouses is harmed (cf. ibid., Canon 1055, No. 1), excluded with a positive act of the will. Without a doubt the cases in which there is a failure to recognize the other as a spouse are an exception. This occurs when the essential ordination of the community of conjugal life is excluded from the good of the other. The clarification of these hypotheses about the exclusion of the "bonum coniugum" must be carefully assessed by the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Moving Forward

The reform of the reform. Fr. Mark sums it up beautifully, saying:
Bishop Athanasius Schneider's address, given in extenso below, identifies three liturgical practices, which, although widespread and, until recently, accepted unquestioningly, cry out for correction and reform in the Ordinary Form (or Novus Ordo) of the Mass.
One can cite . . . the loss of the sacred and sublime character of the liturgy and the introduction of more anthropocentric gestural elements. This phenomenon makes itself evident in three liturgical practices well known and widespread in nearly all the parishes of the Catholic world:
(1) the nearly total disappearance of the use of the Latin language;
(2) the reception of the Eucharistic Body of Christ directly on the hand and standing;
(3) the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the modality of a closed circle in which priest and people continually look each other in the face. This manner of praying, that is: not all facing in the same direction, which is a more natural bodily and symbolic expression with respect to the truth of everyone being spiritually turned toward God in public worship, contradicts the practice that Jesus Himself and His Apostles observed in public prayer at the temple or in the synagogue. Moreover, it contradicts the unanimous testimony of the Fathers and all the prior tradition of the Eastern and Western Church.
These three pastoral and liturgical practices, in noisy rupture with the laws of prayer maintained by generations of faithful Catholics for nearly a millennium, find no support in the conciliar texts, but rather contradict either a specific text of the Council (on the Latin language, see Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 36, § 1; 54), or the "mens", the true intention of the conciliar Fathers, as can be verified in the Acts of the Council.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Bishop Schneider's observations should stimulate reflection, liturgical catechesis, and reform on the part of the pastors of souls. The object of these three steps would be:

1. The restoration of the use of the Latin language (and of Gregorian Chant) in some parts of the Mass, beginning with the Ordinary.

2. The restoration of the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue with communicants kneeling. This will, in time, necessarily lead to the restoration of the so-called "Communion Rail" and the use of the paten held under the chin of the communicant by an acolyte.

3. The restoration of the practice of priest and people together facing in the same direction for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, that is, from the Offertory until the Communion.

And Also . . .

To these three steps, I would add four related initiatives for the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass:
1. In every parish: the reservation of service in the sanctuary and at the altar to boys and men, so as to bear witness to the priestly potentialities inherent in all manhood, be it by means of ordination to Holy Orders, or by means of the role of the husband and father in the domestic church (ecclesiola) of the family.

2. In every parish: the development of a parallel field of service, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, reserved to girls and women including the worthy adornment of the Domus Dei, the parish church, and the care of the appointments required for the Sacred Liturgy; and the visitation and relief of the elderly, of the sick, of widows, and of families in distress.

3. While waiting for the desired restoration of the subdiaconate in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the restriction of the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to those exceptional and rare instances specifically allowed by liturgical law, giving preference to men instituted as acolytes, and to senior (male) servers at the altar distinguished by piety and by knowledge of the sacred rites, always suitably vested in cassock and surplice, or amice, alb, and cincture.

4. Given that Holy Communion under both species is often advanced as an argument for the necessity of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and given the relative frequency of accidents that occur during the distribution of the Most Precious Blood, Holy Communion ought to be given, as clearly recommended by the Holy See in Sacramentali Communione (1970), by intinction of the Sacred Host by the priest in the Chalice of the Precious Blood, or under the species of bread only.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Fr. Blake writes honestly about the ancient tradition of the Church and why we must pray for our priests. To quote:
It has become unpopular to see celibacy as a higher way of living than marriage, despite the fact that this is what the Gospels plainly teach, providing of course it is for the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is very easy when we lose a sense of the supernatural to see celibacy merely in terms of a celibate priest being cheaper to keep and easier to move than one who is married, or equally cynically counting as a blessing that celibacy gives him the advantage of not being prone to divorce or having children that might disgrace his vocation.
More HERE.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

With Eyes Fixed on Thee

The mystery of the Eucharistic face of Christ. In the words of Father Mark:
All the saints share the same splendid intuitions, but each one expresses them according to his own genius, with his own vocabulary, and in the light of his own experience. Saint Peter Julian Eymard's "vow of personality" is the fruit of his reflections on the priesthood in the context of a life spent before Our Lord's Eucharistic Face, in intimate communion with His Eucharistic Heart. The very fact that Saint Peter Julian has recourse to Saint Paul and Saint John to express his own spiritual experience demonstrates that the substance of his experience is catholic, while the expression he gives to it is personal and particular. Compare, for example, Saint Peter Julian Eymard's texts with the prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity:
O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, I long to be the bride of your heart. I long to cover you with glory, to love you even unto death! Yet I sense my powerlessness and beg you to clothe me with yourself. Identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute yourself for me, so that my life may become a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, as Redeemer and as Saviour.
O Eternal Word, utterance of my God, I want to spend my life listening to you, to become totally teachable so that I might learn all from you. Through all darkness, all emptiness, all powerlessness, I want to keep my eyes fixed on you and to remain under your great light. O my Beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may never be able to leave your radiance.
It seems to me that Saint Peter Julian, the priest-adorer of the Most Blessed Sacrament would heartily subscribe to the prayer of Blessed Elizabeth, the Carmelite, and find in it a perfectly adequate expression of what he called "the vow of personality."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Light Has Dawned

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB preaches on the words of the Prophet Isaias:
After King Ahaz and his people have clearly rejected the Word of God (cf. Isaiah 7:10-12; 8:6a) the Lord declares that he will hide his face from the house of Jacob (8:17) as an indication of his dismay and anger. In a time of anguish and panic due to the wrath of God, people have taken recourse only too easily to mediums and wizards (8:19). But Isaiah observes that it is ridiculous to consult the dead on behalf of the living. In Chapter 8:16-22 we read of the terrible fate that could overtake the people: "There is no dawn for this people" (8:20).

Instead, there is hunger, thirst and misery showing itself in physical as well as spiritual deprivation. People's hearts are darkened and their spirits are greatly disturbed. They get enraged and curse their sinful king and the God whom they have forsaken. They live without hope and any consolation. Whether they turn their faces upward or cast their eyes down to the earth, they will see only distress and darkness while they themselves will be thrust into thick darkness (cf. Exodus 10:22; Deuteronomy 28:29).

Such darkness penetrates right into the heart and soul and renders the continuation of human life impossible. But that darkness and distress were not Isaiah's last words. Precisely upon this land has shone a great light. A recurring theme in the scriptures is the fact that God acts in the unexpected context, in the unexpected place, in the unexpected time, in the unexpected way.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Devout Exercise for the Unity of the Church

Scott Richert on the Octave for Christian Unity:
One of the chief preoccupations of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate has been attempts to increase the unity of the Church. He has repeatedly reached out to the Eastern Orthodox; set up a structure for Anglicans to return to Rome; begun the process of reconciling the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X; extended the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, to (among other things) preclude further traditionalist schisms; and approved the issuing of a very important document that makes the Catholic Church's understanding of ecclesiology, which must be the basis for any ecumenical dialogue, crystal-clear.

Pope Benedict's monthly prayer intentions often focus on Christian unity, as indeed do his prayers intentions for January 2011. And so, during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us join with the Holy Father by offering as our Novena of the Week A Devout Exercise for the Unity of the Church.

A Life and Death Struggle

Preparing for the March for Life.
Planned Parenthood is receiving some unwanted publicity, with the publication this month of "unPLANNED," a book by former abortion clinic employee, Abby Johnson.

After eight years of first being a volunteer and then working with Planned Parenthood her support for abortion dramatically changed the day she was asked to help in an abortion and witnessed on an ultrasound how a 13-week-old baby was fighting for its life as the procedure was under way.

According to an interview published Jan. 11 on the National Catholic Register Web site, Johnson said she had never witnessed an ultrasound during an abortion before. At the time of the abortion she was director of the clinic in Bryan, Texas. She explained that Planned Parenthood had always told them that a fetus had no sensory development until 28 weeks, something contradicted by what she saw on the screen as the fetus struggled to avoid being suctioned out.

Her book describes how this experience led her to quit her job at the clinic, and recounts her journey from college girl to being head of an abortion clinic and then on to pro-life advocate. Planned Parenthood tried to prevent the book's publication, in a lawsuit that failed. It was worried, no doubt, by her description of how the organization pushed to increase the number of abortions at Johnson's clinic, which are a big profit-maker.

For those of us who are unable to attend the March, let us pray for an end to this great evil.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Wedding of Christ

A reflection on the wedding at Cana by Father Ray Blake. To quote:
The Mother of Jesus is there. In John's Gospel she appears here for the first time, the last time she appears is at the foot of the Cross, both times she is referred to as "woman". Hardline Protestants would suggest this was Jesus being contemptuous of her but on the contrary she is in Jesus' mind and that of John "The Woman" who is faithful to the  Tree of the Cross. Her fidelity is a reversal of Eve's infidelity because she is the new Eve as Jesus is the new Adam. Her words to the servants about obedience "Do whatever he tells you" undoes Eve's command to Adam, "to take and eat" in which humankind are condemned to disobedience sin and estrangement from God.

Here, with her direct involvement, the water of the Old Testament is turned into the good new wine of the New and Eternal Covenant. The wine reminds us of the Eucharist, it is at Mary's behest it is poured out.
We can see the now empty six stone jars as being the days of creation, they are drained, used up awaiting refreshment, to be filled with baptismal water which will itself, like those baptised be transformed.

If we can look below the surface, we can ask ourselves whose wedding this is. Is it an unknown Jewish couple or is is it really the mystical wedding of Christ himself to those born of water and wine: Baptism and the Eucharist

St. Marcellus

Pope and martyr.
During the third century paganism and Christianity vied for supremacy in the Roman Empire. Hoping to stifle the Church completely, the emperor Diocletian in 303 began the last and fiercest of the persecutions. In time, Christian charity conquered pagan brutality, and as the Church attracted more and more members, the Roman government would be compelled to recognize its existence, but it was only after almost three hundred years, during which persecutions had forced Christian worship underground, that the Church would finally come out into the open after the Edict of Nantes in 313. It was still young and disorganized, vulnerable to heresy and apostasy, and needed a strong leader to settle questions of doctrine and discipline.
Such a leader came to the Chair of Peter in 304, when Saint Marcellus was elected pope. Saint Marcellinus, his predecessor, while being taken to torture, had exhorted him not to cede to the decrees of Diocletian, and it became evident that Marcellus did not intend to temporize. He established new catacombs and saw to it that the divine mysteries were continually celebrated there. Then three years of relative peace were given the church when Maxentius became emperor in 307, for he was too occupied with other difficulties to persecute the Christians.
After assessing the problems facing the Church, Saint Marcellus planned a strong program of reorganization. Rome then as now was the seat of Catholicism, and his program was initiated there. He divided the territorial administration of the Church into twenty-five districts or parishes, placing a priest over each one, thus restoring an earlier division which the turmoil of the persecutions had disrupted. This arrangement permitted more efficient care in instructing the faithful, in preparing candidates for baptism and penitents for reconciliation. With these measures in force, Church government took on a definite form.
Marcellus’ biggest problem was dealing with the Christians who had apostatized during the persecution. Many of these were determined to be reconciled to the Church without performing the necessary penances. The Christians who had remained faithful demanded that the customary penitential discipline be maintained and enforced. Marcellus approached this problem with uncompromising justice; the apostates were in the wrong, and regardless of the consequences, were obliged to do penance. It was not long before the discord between the faithful and the apostates led to violence in the very streets of Rome.
An account of Marcellus’ death, dating from the fifth century, relates that Maxentius, judging the pope responsible for the trouble between the Christian factions, condemned him to work as a slave on the public highway. After nine months of this hard labor, he was rescued by the clergy and taken to the home of a widow named Lucina; this woman welcomed him with every sign of respect and offered him her home for a church. When the emperor learned that Christian rites were being celebrated there, he profaned the church by turning it into a stable and forced the Holy Father to care for the animals quartered there. In these sad surroundings, Marcellus died on January 16, 310. He was buried in the catacombs of Priscilla, but later his remains were placed beneath the altar of the church in Rome which still bears his name.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

St. Paul the First Hermit

An inspiration for contemplatives.
Saint Paul was born in Upper Egypt in about the year 229, and became an orphan at the age of fifteen. He was very rich and highly educated. Fearing lest the tortures of a terrible persecution might endanger his Christian perseverance, he retired into a remote village. But his pagan brother-in-law denounced him, and Saint Paul, rather than remain where his faith was in danger, entered the barren desert, trusting that God would supply his wants. And his confidence was rewarded; for on the spot to which Providence led him he found the fruit of a palm-tree for food, its leaves for clothing, and the water of a spring for drink.
His first plan was to return to the world when the persecution was over; but tasting great delights in prayer and penance, he remained for the rest of his life, ninety years, in penance, prayer and contemplation.
God revealed his existence to Saint Anthony, who sought him for three days. Seeing a thirsty she-wolf run through an opening in the rocks, Anthony followed her to look for water and found Paul. They knew each other at once, and praised God together. While Saint Anthony was visiting him, a raven brought them a loaf of bread, and Saint Paul said, “See how good God is! For sixty years this bird has brought me half a loaf each day; now at your coming, Christ has doubled the provision for His servants.”
The two religious passed the night in prayer, then at dawn Paul told Anthony that he was about to die, and asked to be buried in the cloak given to Anthony by Saint Athanasius. He asked him this to show that he was dying in communion with Saint Athanasius, the invincible defender of the Faith against the Arian heresy. Anthony hastened back to fetch it, and when he was returning to Paul he saw his co-hermit rising to heaven in glory. He found his dead body kneeling as in prayer, and saw two lions come and dig his grave. Saint Paul, The Patriarch of Hermits, died in his one hundred and thirteenth year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Change and Discernment

Here is a recent letter from our Father General who says,"We cannot discern well without genuine inward change." (Via Communicationes)
The first and basic that our minds be opened to the spirit of wisdom and “revelation” and be renewed in the knowledge of God, recalling the hope to which our vocation calls us and depending, not on our own resources, but on the power of grace. I ask you not to consider these words as harmless pious sentiment, to be read and promptly forgotten. In fact, this is “the one thing necessary”, on which everything else should depend....

The prescriptions of our Constitutions in relation to General Chapters being the supreme authority of the Order (C 67), are to be applied to Provincial Chapters as well in the sphere of their respective circumscriptions. The exercise of this authority has one sole objective: to seek God’s plan for us, wherein he manifests the truth about what we are at the moment (the terminus of past and recent history) and what we are called to be in the future. We can speculate on so many things about our situation, but until we place ourselves in the light of God’s plans we run the risk of underestimating or exaggerating ourselves. Genuine spirituality includes a healthy realism, as we see in the example of our Saints and particularly in what St. Teresa has taught us. I hope that the personal and shared reading of her writings, as outlined in the General Chapter in Fatima, may serve as guidelines and support, helping you to fulfil the responsibilities you have in your various circumscriptions.- “to animate, propose and recall the raison d’ệtre of consecrated life, to help others respond with renewed fidelity to the prompting of the Spirit”.1

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

8 Types of False Piety

And how to avoid them. (Via Esther)
These are the problems we must understand to progress in sanctity.
Concessions to the world
In a speech to university students of Rome in June 1952, the Holy Father Pius XII made an observation that shows well the importance of the subject, and above all, the need to address it in a practical manner. Analyzing the moral crisis that youth usually goes through, His Holiness stated: "Let us leave aside the question of how this crisis was provoked, to which intellectual difficulties and other circumstances have contributed, [reasons] that can be sought... in the wild jungle of unbridled passions and moral deviations, or perhaps in the murky field of concessions people think must be made to the demands of a coveted career.”
Indeed, how many concessions is a fervent Catholic solicited to make in our days! How to avoid compromising with the spirit of the world, except through solid piety? Therefore, what must the characteristics of true piety be?
Before we describe true piety, we will analyze some types of false piety very common in the modern world and will show the moral deviations to which they lead.
1 - Minimalist piety
In all his acts of piety, a minimalist devotee is contented with what seems to him absolutely indispensable. His prayers are short, quick, almost mechanical. He believes a monthly or weekly Communion suffices and does not even think about receiving it more often. If someone encourages him to receive Communion more often, he will perhaps reply with a kind word but believing he already does enough. St. Ignatius appears a bit exaggerated to him when he recommends daily meditation. In the morning and before going to bed, he says some hasty Hail-Marys and thinks his duty is fully done. To him, weekly confession made out of devotion even without grave sin appears perfectly dispensable. He practices other acts of piety such as spiritual reading, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, prayers before and after meals, and frequent ejaculations without the least warmth.
This slackness in the practice of pious acts is reflected in the whole life of the minimalist. In his conversations he seldom deals with spiritual matters or topics related to the apostolate. His general attitude in society, before his friends and colleagues, or even family, is never as markedly Catholic as should be expected. His way of avoiding near occasions of sin and reacting to temptations is always lukewarm and dubious. The apostolate gives him no pleasure at all; he devotes to it the least, indispensable amount of time so he won’t look bad.
As a consequence, his apostolate produces only rare and weak fruits. If a zealous friend points out the reason for the inefficacy of his work, he defends himself blaming secondary factors. He thus seeks to deceive himself about the real cause. In short, his life is lukewarm, slothful and without enthusiasm.
In order to understand clearly this type of false piety, we must note that minimalism has several degrees. One can be a minimalist even though one receives Communion every day, makes a daily meditation and follows all the rules of the religious association to which one belongs, and even though our apostolate may produce some fruit. Indeed, all that is possible without the desire for perfection that characterizes non-minimalist piety. Even a fervent person can have traits of minimalism: a small defect he does not want to correct because he is “convinced” he has done enough and needs nothing else to be entirely happy with himself.
Since in spiritual life there is no stagnation, in fact the minimalist is always losing ground. That fall can be slow and go unperceived but it is inevitable. A typical example of a minimalist devotee is the rich man of the Gospel. Although he practiced the Commandments since his youth, he did not want to follow Our Lord. Some theologians believe he has even been condemned.
2 - Piety without formation
Is the piety of a devotee with a deficient and superficial religious formation and who does not seek to deepen it. He has never studied the truths of our faith and does not even know the catechism. In the life of piety, he is a child.
He does not know why the Church recommends meditation, how to do it or what fruits to draw from it. He does not know why we must pray, frequent the sacraments, have a profound devotion to saints. Everything in him is directed by impressions, impulses and routine; he either becomes enthusiastic with devotions or dislikes them for no reason. In him there is no upright ordination of everything according to the good norms taught by the Church.
The devotee deprived of formation does not even know that the principles of supernatural life exist. He does not know the marvels that divine grace can operate in the human soul.
How can he have a life of profound and serious piety if he does not know the value of a well-made Communion? If his meditation is poor and without horizons? If he does not know how to pray? If he does not know the mysteries of our faith? If he does not know about the communion of saints, the final resurrection, the Immaculate Conception and so on?
Let us take only one example. Saint Paul wrote: “I can do everything in Him who strengthens me.” What source of energy and courage does this message convey! It preserves us from all discouragement. It incites us to the most daring and heroic spiritual enterprises. A devotee without formation does not know all that.
3 - Inconstant piety
In defining inconstancy in piety toward Our Lady, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort writes: "Inconstant devotees are those whose devotion to Our Lady is practiced in fits and starts. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes they are lukewarm. Sometimes they appear ready to do anything to please Our Lady, and then shortly afterwards they have completely changed. They start by embracing every devotion to Our Lady. They join her confraternities, but they do not faithfully observe the rules. They are as changeable as the moon, and like the moon, Mary puts them under her feet. Because of their fickleness they are unworthy to be included among the servants of the Virgin most faithful, because faithfulness and constancy are the hallmarks of Mary's servants. It is better not to burden ourselves with a multitude of prayers and pious practices but rather adopt only a few and perform them with love and perseverance in spite of opposition from the devil the world and the flesh."
This inconstancy can be manifested in all practices of piety and in every life of apostolate.
How will an inconstant devotee behave, for example, when he is in charge of directing a Marian Congregation? As soon as they give him that post, his soul is filled with enthusiasm. He makes perfect plans and resolutions worthy of all praise. But when the time for concrete achievement comes, the phase of the moon changes. His hollow enthusiasm vanishes before the slightest difficulty and he abandons all plans without hesitation. At a certain point he hears about a new work of apostolate and warmly decides to put it into practice in his Congregation. He organizes meetings to deal with the matter; makes insistent invitations to those who appear reluctant; and only talks about that new work. In a little while, his enthusiasm disappears because a new idea has appeared or simply because he forgot.
Thus our inconstant devotee, from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, carries on with life. His life of piety is made of unfulfilled resolutions and his life of apostolate is made of unachieved plans. What will he have to present to God at the Last Judgment?
4 - Interested piety
“And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain town, there ten men met him that were lepers who stood far away. They lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.”
The nine lepers who did not return to thank Our Lord did have some piety. Seeing that Our Lord was passing near their town, they went to meet him, which shows they had faith that He could cure them. They were not like those who remained indifferent as Our Lord passed by. They asked Jesus to have pity on them and even called Him master. However, what was the ultimate reason for their devotion? Self-interest. They wanted to be cured. Not one among them returned to give glory to God, for in fact they did not care about the glory of God.
Does self-interested piety exist nowadays? Certainly. Giving glory to God and doing good to souls may not be the primary intention of a Catholic who is zealous in his works of apostolate, but rather to obtain a personal advantage such as, for example, becoming a congressman. Apostolate for him is a way to make a career. Self-interested piety can exist out of convenience, economic, social or other advantages.
In most cases the self-interested side of piety appears in a disguised fashion. People avidly look for personal advantages they can gather along the way. If an interested devotee must give a public speech, he is much more concerned about showing off and displaying his natural qualities than in doing good to souls. Note that self-interested piety is often subconscious, but no less culpable on that account.
A self-interested devotee is opportunistic and dislikes sacrifices that procure him no personal gain; he does not understand the spirit of penance and has no gratitude at all for the graces he receives.
5 - Sentimental piety
Sentimental piety consists of a hypertrophy of sentiments that makes the whole spiritual life of a person be based on emotions and sensations. In true piety the will must be governed by intelligence; in the final analysis, the whole spiritual life must be oriented by rational motives. That does not mean that feelings do not play a role in true piety; they must accompany reason by favoring and encouraging the practice of virtue. But they are not essential to the spiritual life and can be absent, particularly in moments of trial. In general, a prayer made without consolation is more meritorious than when accompanied with emotions and bouts of enthusiasm in the soul.
But a sentimental devotee does not think so. As far as he is concerned, spiritual vibrations are the thermometer of the spiritual life. If when praying before a statue he feels that all the fibers of his heart are vibrating, he goes away certain that his prayer was well done. If he feels no emotion whatsoever he thinks his prayer was useless and generally abbreviates it as much as he can.
On finishing a retreat, he spends a few days with great “fervor” and fulfilling all his duties. But when sensible emotions go away – something that is inevitable – all his fervor disappears and he goes back to being the same person as before.
He combats his defects only when he feels an impulse to do so. He only does apostolate with people who are pleasant to be with, or when he feels like doing it.
6 - Romantic piety
Like sentimental piety, romantic piety overvalues feelings. But what makes a romantic devotee vibrate is different than what makes a sentimental one tick. The latter vibrates with pious practices. The romantic vibrates with liturgical, social or aesthetic exteriorities of religious practices. He does not look for sensations in prayer but in the ceremonial that surrounds prayer.
A romantic devotee goes to Sunday Mass. If the organist was not brilliant; if inexperienced altar boys messed up the harmony of the liturgy; if the sermon, though excellent, contained a grammatical error; or if the audience was not very select, our romantic believes the Mass had no value.
As it were, he despises simple, though pious, prayer. His meditation – if he makes it – is populated with dreams, fantasies and interior declamations. If his works of apostolate do not allow him to imagine himself a knight of the Round Table, he soon becomes discouraged and apathetic. He almost only appreciates “great gestures,” original sayings and romantic attitudes in general.
In short, spiritual life for him is an ensemble of apparatuses without supernatural content.
7 - “Enlightened” piety
We call “enlightened” the piety of a proud and naturalist devotee who thinks he is sufficiently cultured and educated to deny the value of simple pious practices.
An “enlightened” Catholic is always up-to-date about the latest scientific developments; he knows the cultural movements of our times; he holds his own intellectual capabilities in the highest esteem. He believes he has an open and superior mind. So he does not think much of simple devotions such as the recitation of the Rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, novenas to Our Lady and the saints, frequent ejaculations. He believes it is childish to wear medals or scapulars, something useful perhaps for the common people but ridiculous for him. For – the “enlightened” devotee thinks – an intellectual is superior to those superstitions.
Catholic doctrine teaches that since man is made of soul and body, interior practices of piety are not sufficient so that exterior devotions are also indispensable. If interior piety is not exteriorized through concrete practices and sensible signs, it tends to wither.
In the sixth rule of Sentire cum Ecclesia “to have the mind of the Church”, St. Ignatius says: “Have a great esteem for relics, venerating them and praying to the saints they belong to; appreciate the solemnities of the “Stations,” pilgrimages, indulgences, jubilees, crusade bulls, the custom to light candles at church and other similar things that aid our piety and devotion.”
8 - Naturalist piety
Let us imagine a naturalist devotee who has to organize the apostolate of a religious association. What will his orientation be like? In his accomplishments, he will leave to a second place, or even forget, pious practices and everything else related with supernatural life.
As for the rest, a naturalist devotee has a bulletproof dedication. He is capable, active, untiring, a real shaker and mover. As soon as he takes over his post he will make a magnificent plan to organize lectures about burning issues of the day. He will create a sports department, which he holds in the highest esteem, and greatly encourage it. He will prepare courses and invite professors who shine for their natural qualities though their doctrine is dubious. Our naturalist devotee will organize databases, plans for apostolate, advertising for the association and a thousand other activities.
The only thing he will not think about is what Jesus Christ in the Gospel called the only thing necessary: “Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
A naturalist devotee has the same conception of virtue as Martha’s. He organizes lectures and mailing lists but almost does not think about incrementing the life of piety in the association.
The consequences of that will be most disastrous.
Without frequent Communion, a life of prayer and recourse to grace, all of his plans for apostolate will be fruitless, as Our Lord said: “Sine me, nihil potestis facere” “Without Me you can do nothing.”
by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guarding Hearts

Fr. Angelo gives some advice for the renewal of the spiritual life at the year's beginning, saying:
Dom Chautard calls this effulgence of holiness “supernatural radiation.” By means of its blast wave, the enemies of the heart and of the Church are flung back to hell. Thus, real and effective vigilance on behalf of Christ’s Church and all the souls entrusted to Her care will always depend on the defenses of our own individual hearts.
Dom Chautard was a contemplative monk, who, at the behest of Holy Mother Church, left his monastery in order to conduct Church’s work of saving souls, but he was always so wary of allowing the ego to supplant the grace of Christ. May we never fall into that trap. May we, rather, remain vigilant in the custody of our hearts, which is the only way to place the fortification of grace around the larger, external Kingdom of God.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gift and Responsibility

The Holy Father on baptism.
Dear friends, baptism is the beginning of the spiritual life, which finds its fullness through the Church. In the propitious moment of the sacrament, while the ecclesial community prays and entrusts a new child to God, the parents and godparents commit to welcome the newly baptized person supporting him in Christian formation and education. This is a great responsibility, which comes from a great gift! Thus, I would like to encourage all of the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptized and belonging to the great family of God, and to giving a joyous witness to their own faith so that they might bear the fruits of goodness and concord. We ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to whom we entrust the parents who are preparing their children for baptism and catechists as well. May the whole community share in the joy of being reborn by the water of the Holy Spirit!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Our Suffering Brethren

Let us keep on mind all who have been martyred recently, including those in Egypt and Sudan.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Gifts of the Magi

A beautiful explanation of the strange and mystic gifts. To quote:
But amazingly, that may not be the most ominous part of this story.  Instead, go back and compare Isaiah 60:6Matthew 2:11.  Isaiah says that they'll be bringing gold and frankincense: gold, the gift you offer a King, and frankincense, the incense you offer to God.  Properly understood, Isaiah's telling us the crux of the New Testament.  A God-King will enter the world, and be worshiped by Jews and Gentiles alike.  The Magi are the first fulfillment of this, as they (quite literally) walk by faith to come and worship Jesus.  But look at the third gift which Matthew mentions: myrrh.  It's used for embalming (and in fact, Nicodemus uses it to embalm Jesus, in John 19:39).  It's a shocking gift, like giving a baby a specially-engraved tombstone.  And immediately we see the shocking twist of the New Testament: the prophesied God-King is coming, but He's not coming to rule over an earthly Kingdom.  He's coming to Die.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Devotion to the Holy Name and the Holy Face

Fr. Mark explores the Carmelite-Benedictine connection, saying:
In the spring of 1851 the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Monastery of Arras, being already devoted to the Holy Face through the influence of Saint Gertrude the Great, gave the Carmel of Tours several reproductions of the image of the Holy Face venerated in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. (From the Carmel of Tours the devotion would reach the Carmel of Lisieux where it became a profound influence on Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Doctor of the Church.) This particular image of the Holy Face became famous after an astonishing miracle that took place in January 1849, during the exile of Blessed Pope Pius IX at Gaeta.

The Roman Miracle of the Holy Face: Epiphany 1849 

It was customary on the feast of the Epiphany to expose for the veneration of the faithful the "Veronica's Veil" preserved with other sacred relics in the Vatican Basilica. The "Veil" was darkened by age, and the features of Our Lord's sacred countenance were no longer visible. On the third day of the exposition of the relic, before the eyes of numerous witnesses, the image of the Holy Face took on vivid colours and, in the midst of an unearthly light, became clearly visible, and this for three hours. The expression on the Holy Face was one of profound sorrow and of love. Alerted to the prodigy, the Canons of Saint Peter's ordered the bells rung, summoning the faithful to see the miraculous sign. A Notary Apostolic was called to take the depositions of the eyewitnesses; he drew up a document attesting to the miracle, which was then placed in the archives of the Vatican Basilica.

Darkness and Light

A homily on St. John of the Cross by Father General.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who Will Speak His Name?

We must never be afraid to speak the name of Jesus. Tradition is more than propriety or decorum.
Fr Robert Barron notes in this clip that with Jesus we have to “resist the temptation to domesticate him” as a man with “interesting spiritual insights.” He reminds us that Jesus was a man of Whom his followers were “amazed and afraid,” and to this day, we will all have to take stock of our impression of Him and His mission.
I have the greatest affection for Elizabeth—her obstinacy towards Rome not withstanding. But I think that this short video provides a fascinating time capsule of sorts that will allow us to decide whether we’re going to defend “principles” and “ideals” or the Name of Jesus Himself on Whom civilization must be ordered. If she, as “Defender of the Faith” will not stand by the Holy Name—and others follow suit—then our post-Christian culture only risks further annihilation until another people emerges to do as He asks.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Sufferings of the Infant Jesus

Anyone who has ever visited our house knows that we have a special devotion to the Child Jesus. The Infant of Prague statue by the door is a dead give away, I guess. Once a business associate of my husband's was coming by and a friend suggested that we temporarily move the statue so as not to appear to be fanatics. My mother, however, said: "Never be ashamed of Jesus," and so the statue stayed. It turns out the associate was a gentleman of Italian descent and the Infant reminded him of his home and his beloved mama. "The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you," as Little Jesus told the Carmelite Father Cyril.

Saints and mystics who have pondered the Divine Infancy tell us that it was not all sweetness and light. From the first moment of His earthly existence, the Incarnate God began atoning for the sins of the world. The Child Jesus had to suffer from poverty, cold, and exile. According to the English Oratorian priest Father Frederick Faber in his book Bethlehem, Our Lord's awareness of the sins of the world caused Him a "spiritual agony," in addition to the foreknowledge of His coming Passion.
As He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, so, in the eyes of the Father and in the terrible realities of His own heart, He was the Crucified Jesus even from the days of Bethlehem. His sufferings exceeded all martyrdoms, even in each single hour of His infant life. (Father Faber)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Virgin Mother

Father Angelo on the great Miracle.
So the erroneous idea that the Virgin Birth takes away from the reality of the humanity of Christ is almost as old as the Church.  It is not a blinding insight from Theology of the Body, but a tired, old decrepit error.
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